Social media can both decrease and increase polarization between social groups. Communicative behaviors associated with intergroup conflict are ingroup favoritism and outgroup derogation. In the current paper, we propose that bias in social-media use can be assessed by focusing on live Twitter commentaries posted by sports clubs. Specifically, we focus on four bias types: biases in (1) communication volume, (2) balance, (3) fairness, and (4) recipient engagement. We analyzed Twitter commentaries placed by soccer clubs in the Dutch Eredivisie during the 2019/20 season (232 games, Ntweets = 13,789). Results on volume showed that clubs placed more tweets during wins (vs. draws or losses). For balance, we found that teams devoted a larger percentage of their feed to positive ingroup (vs. outgroup) events. For fairness, a larger proportion of positive ingroup (vs. outgroup) events were reported in the Twitter commentaries. Furthermore, fans engaged more with tweets about positive ingroup (vs. outgroup) events. By contrast, we did not find differences for negative ingroup (vs. outgroup) events for balance, fairness, or engagement. Taken together, our results show that sport clubs’ live Twitter commentaries reflect ingroup favoritism, but not outgroup derogation.
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In all, our study provides new insights in how sports clubs and fans engage with live commentaries, which have several theoretical and practical implications. First, our results support theoretical predictions from SIT (Tajfel & Turner, 1986) about ingroup favoritism, but not on outgroup derogation in live Twitter commentaries. In this way, our study provides additional support from a more naturalistic setting to confirm predictions from SIT which has been mainly investigated in experimental contexts (e.g., Assilaméhou & Testé, 2013; Burgers et al., 2015; Iacoviello & Spears, 2021). Given the importance of intergroup dynamics for online polarization (Marchal, 2022; Rathje et al., 2021; Van Bavel et al., 2021), these are important new insights. Second, our results demonstrate how live Twitter commentaries by sports clubs do not necessarily adhere to general journalistic norms on balance (Schaefer & Fordan, 2014; Zeldes et al., 2008) and fairness (Boudana, 2016). Thus, stakeholders who engage with these Twitter commentaries (e.g., fans, journalists) should be aware that this new online genre of live Twitter commentaries should be approached differently from traditional sports journalism (cf. Grimmer, 2017).
© 2022 The Authors
- Social media
- intergroup communication
- Social identity theory
- Basking in reflected glory (BIRGing)
- Cutting off reflected failures (CORFing)